My First Kickstarter – Part 3 – What I Learned

So my first ever Kickstarter has ended and I regret to say that it did not meet its goal!  I am not completely crushed, however, as this has been an  experiment from the beginning.  I knew it might fail due to my own inexperience with hosting this kind of campaign.  I’m writing my thoughts here so that I (and you) can learn from my mistakes and triumphs.

“As the Lady of January, I must protest this treatment!”

What Promotion was Effective (or Not)?

To see a full list of the places where I promoted my Kickstarter, see Part 1.

– The Art Nouveau Tumblr blogs I submitted my promo posts to took about 2 weeks to process submissions.

– The Facebook Groups and Pages I submitted to never replied.

– The DeviantART Groups I posted to, especially artnouveau, were very supportive and enthusiastic! I had a few pledges directly from dA due to spreading the word there.  It’s also a community I’ve been on for 10+ years, which probably plays a factor.

–  Reddit, despite everyone’s insistence that it is vital, was useless for me.  I got a couple of upvotes, but I suspect Reddit is only effective if you have a particular fandom that would be interested in your topic. Alas, none of the several subreddits I posted to provided a single clickthru of support according to my statistics panel.  Perhaps I just didn’t find the right subreddit with the right people?

–  Paid Facebook ads ($40 worth, to be exact) seemed to be somewhat effective.  I got plenty of shares and Likes and a few pledges via Facebook, according to KS’s stats.  I promoted both a video post and a text post.

–  Paid Twitter ads (or promoted Tweets) got plenty of Favorites, but resulted in no direct pledges.  I have to wonder if people bookmarked the project page and came back later, which made them come up as direct traffic instead?  Either way, I had $100 free credit on Twitter for trying out their Ad area for the first time, so it was a great risk free promotion.

– During my campaign, Kickstarter launched a whole new way for projects to be found via their ‘Discover’ panel, which now includes clickable sub-categories for their main categories, which make it easier to narrow the focus of the projects that pop up for random discovery viewers.

The Bottom Line:  Out of all of the sites I promoted my Kickstarter at, my top three referrers which resulted directly in pledges were direct traffic via Kickstarter’s site (especially after the debut of the new discovery panel), DeviantART, and Facebook.

Disclaimer:  My results may not reflect your results, especially if we have unrelated projects.  Best to test them out for yourself and see where your target audience exists on the net!

Toughest Challenges

Losing sleep – I spent a lot of time at night trying to think of the exact perfect way I could say the right thing to encourage people to invest in my project.  I kept thinking up endless tasks for myself to do.  Not a recipe for good sleep!

Obsessively checking email – Even though I promised myself I would not become obsessed with this, I could not help but clicking refresh to see when Pledges came in.  With such a short timeline, every day is vital and might bring new pledges!  This is a dangerous activity for our egos, especially when a campaign fails.

Fear of not promoting enough or too much – Was I spamming people?  Was I not asking people to do enough?  Was I not clear about what my project was trying to do?  All of these thoughts kept bouncing around in my head every day and night, also not conducive to sleep.

Why Did My Campaign Fail?

And now the tough question!  Why did my campaign fail, anyways?  I got some great feedback from a person who was kind enough to come forward and tell me why they did not back my project as well as fellow artists who have ran their own campaigns in the past, which made me come to some important revelations.

Confusing Expectations – Most potential Backers thought they were getting the entire series at once or they wanted to get the whole series at once, instead of waiting.  What they did not understand is that by backing this Lady, they actually help to fund the next Lady in the series.

If I were to just finish all of the paintings first without breaking them up into a series, I wouldn’t actually be able to put any of the funding received along the way to a good use (IE. helping me to hire models, acquire new art supplies, etc) and therefore being able to improve the next Lady in the series.  I was not clear enough with my project Story and videos with how vital backers would be in influencing the creative output of this series and thus helping these paintings to meet their full potential.

Lack of Variety/Demand – The downside of only having one Lady in the series so far is that it is highly reliant on those with a connection to January.  January isn’t a popular birthday, as far as I can tell, meaning there were less Backers interested in picking this one up.  Now October?  I have a feeling she’s going to have an easier time meeting her goal!  (October has been the number 1 requested Lady so far!)  By the time I get to the later Ladies, the previous Ladies will be included as part of the Rewards, which will add to the demand for that Lady.

EDIT: I have since moved the Ladies of the Months project to Patreon where it’s currently gaining traction!


What Would I Do Differently Next Time?

I definitely want to try Kickstarter again and I plan to continue the Ladies of the Months Kickstarter series. However, I will definitely be going about things quite differently after this first experience.

–  Plan a strict time table BEFORE I start.
I had a loose time table in my head, but so many delays came up, particularly with the video editing, that I stressed myself out more than I should have trying to get things posted within the relatively small window I had to promote in.  Next time, I hope to have all of my sample Rewards and videos created and ready to post before the campaign even begins.

– Target my promoters ahead of time.
I’m going to make a list of places to promote my Kickstarter ahead of time so I’m not scrounging during the final days stressing myself out and desperately trying to find the right outlets who will respond to me.  I hope to approach promoters first and give them some lead time for working in an article about my Kickstarter into their schedules first so they won’t run into the problem of my campaign being over before they even have a free slot.

– Build a bigger fanbase first?
I’m torn on this one. Many people offering advice about this campaign stated you don’t need a fan base before running a Kickstarter, but the people I have seen succeeding the most on Kickstarter already have a collector base they have built or have worked with well-known IPs.  I have a small fanbase, but it’s not nearly as big as I would like nor does it seem big enough at the moment to support a Kickstarter for people who might pitch in on a whim.  Should I wait till I have built more of a collector base for a particular brand of art before starting another Kickstarter in this series?

By the same token, I’ve had many people notice Lady of January (and my Ladies of the Months series) thanks to the Kickstarter and just simply having the paintings out there at conventions and online has grown interest in them.  Most of my mailing list sign-ups at this past DragonCon were thanks to people wanting to know when their Lady’s month comes up.  Does this mean that though January failed, my audience has grown just enough to make chances of the future Ladies’ success bigger?  I’m still pondering on this one!

– Have a clearer creative journey.
I really believe focusing on how awesome Art Nouveau is and the physical rewards over the creative journey hurt my chances for success.  I intend to focus on how this series is actually helping me maximize the potential of these paintings beyond my current capabilities the next time.

I hope documenting my process has helped someone else out there.  I know it has helped me!  I look forward to presenting the Lady of February’s Kickstarter in the coming months armed with new knowledge and enthusiasm.

Thanks to all who pitched in and gave words of encouragement!  If anything, running a Kickstarter gave me real, tangible evidence of all the amazing folks out there who are wishing me well and sending their support.  You guys are fabulous!

Till the next time!  I cheer to your own Kickstarter’s success!

You can read the other parts in this series here:
My First Kickstarter – Part 1 – Concept, Preparation, and Promotion
My First Kickstarter – Part 2 – During the Campaign

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